Reform rabbi hits out at outreach ‘soul trappers’
RABBI DR Tony Bayfield, the head of Britain’s Reform movement, has launched a scathing attack on Orthodox outreach groups, branding them “missionaries and soul trappers”.
In an editorial in the latest issue of the Progressive magazine, Manna, he wrote: “We are immensely deferential to organisations like Aish, who want our children to be Jewish. But the Judaism they want them to subscribe to is a Judaism that drives a wedge between children and parents, most often expressed in the lament — or statement of pride — ‘They cannot eat in my home any more’.”
There are many on the “picturesque right”, he adds, “who only want souls and will go to extreme lengths to capture them.
“If you doubt just how many are in thrall to the missionaries and soul trappers, ask anyone in leadership positions within the mainstream of the community about their bottomless pockets and their unmatchable budgets. These enable them to offer enticing freebies and deploy seemingly endless human resources. Much of the money comes from donors within the mainstream of the community.”
He asks: “Why is it that groups and religious organisations who parade a theology of ‘there’s been a tragedy, check your mezuzah’ variety, are held in such respect?”
Aish director Rabbi Naftali Schiff said: “We are committed to building bridges and uniting Jews as opposed to dividing Jews. Far from driving wedges through families, so often Aish brings parents and their children together through meaningful Jewish experiences that bridge generations rather than distance them. ”
The organisation, he added, worked, “very hard to build the concept of ‘respect for fathers and mothers’ as it is a central tenet of Jewish values”.
In 2005, Aish’s income exceeded £3m, compared to £2.6m for Reform.